Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Trump: I Fired Comey Because Trump-Russia Thing Is Made Up; NYT: Trump Ordered Lawyer To Pressure Sessions Not To Recuse; Author: Questions Swirl In White House About Trump's Fitness For Office; Terminal Evacuated At JFK Due To Water Main Break. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired January 7, 2018 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WHITFIELD: Hello everyone and welcome this Sunday. Thanks so much for being with me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

Breaking news this hour, brand new backlash today as the fallout from that scathing tell-all book about life inside the Trump White House continues this afternoon.

Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon issuing a statement saying his comments in the book about Donald Trump Jr. are inaccurate. And Bannon is expressing regret in not responding sooner, writing this, "Donald Trump Jr. is both a patriot and a good man. He has been relentless in his advocacy for his father and the agenda and has helped turn our country around. I regret that my delay in responding to the inaccurate reporting regarding Don Jr. has diverted attention from the President's historical accomplishments in the first year of his presidency," end quote. That's a statement from Steve Bannon.

Meantime, President Trump is drawing a line in the sand calling allies to make clear they must choose between him, the President, and the former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon.

CNN's Boris Sanchez is live for us at the White House where the President has just returned from his weekend at Camp David. Of course, Bannon didn't just say his comments about Don Jr. were inaccurate, but he actually went after Paul Manafort, the former campaign manager.

(UNKNOWN): That's right, Fred. We got our first look at excerpts from Fire and Fury on Wednesday, and it's not until five days later today that we got a direct response from former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon as to what he's quoted as saying in the book. And he directs his comments about that 2016 meeting between several Trump campaign officials and Russian nationals at Trump Tower where he was quoted in the book as calling that an unpatriotic and treasonous meeting. He says now that those comments were not directed at Donald Trump Jr. but rather, as you said, Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort.

Here's more of what Bannon writes. He says, quote, "My comments were aimed at Paul Manafort, a seasoned campaign professional with experience and knowledge of how the Russians operate. He should have known they are duplicitous, cunning and not our friends."

To reiterate, those comments were not aimed at Don Jr., the subtext here being that Paul Manafort should have known better and that Donald Trump Jr. did not further, though we should know that Donald Trump Jr., at the time before the meeting took place, said that he loved the idea of getting doored on Hillary Clinton that the Russians were offering, as he quoted of saying in an email beyond that another fascinating portion of the statement from Steve Bannon is one in which he seems to offer a hand of reconciliation through the president and then counts his own abilities as a messenger for the Make America Great Again movement.

Here is that portion now. He writes, "I am the only person today to conduct a global effort to preach the message of Trump and Trumpism and remain ready to stand in the breach for this President's efforts to make America great again." This statement, of course, thread coming on the heels of several attacks from Trump surrogates and from the President himself on Steve Bannon, just yesterday calling Steve Bannon "Sloppy Steve."

And as you said, CNN has confirmed reporting that the President, in recent days, has reached out to friends and allies to essentially tell them that they need to choose a side. It's either of the President or Steve Bannon. And we should also note that last week Steve Bannon's biggest financial backer, Rebekah Mercer, made comments distancing herself from the former White House Chief Strategist and the head of Breitbart News news. So you get the sense that Steve Brennan (ph) -- Steve Bannon feels this waning influence. He sees himself perhaps as losing a -- a favor with this administration, so he's essentially trying to stay afloat with the statement.

One final note very quickly, Fred, there is no mention in the statement at all about some of the disparaging comments that Steve Bannon is quoted as saying in the book about Jared Kushner, the President's son-in-law or about money laundering being tied to the Russian investigation, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, interesting distinctions there. All right. Boris Sanchez, thanks so much at the White House. Check back with you later. So all of this as the White House continues its assault on Steve Bannon.

The President's Senior Policy Adviser, Stephen Miller, staunchly defending the President today in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, which became quite contentious. Watch.

TAPPER: So President Trump and the White House have been calling the Russian investigation a witch hunt and a nothing burger. But obviously in this new Michael Wolff book, "Fire and Fury," Bannon offered a different take on the Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and these -- and these other officials, including a Russian lawyer. He called it treasonous and unpatriotic.

And he said that, quote, "The chance to Don Jr. did not walk these jumos up to his father's office on the 26th floor is zero." Did President Trump meet with any of the so-called jumoswho were in that Trump Tower meeting?

(VIDEO BEGINS)

MILLER: Steve Bannon's eloquence in that description notwithstanding, it's tragic and unfortunate that Steve would make these grotesque comments, so out of touch with reality and obviously so vindictive. And the whole White House staff is deeply disappointed in his comments, which were grotesque.

And with respect to the Trump Tower meeting that he's talking about, he wasn't even there, and this went down. So he's not really a remotely credible source on any of it. It reads like an angry vindictive person spouting off to a highly discredible author. The book is best understood as a work of very poorly written fiction.

And I also will say that the author is a garbage author of a garbage book. And the tragic thing about this book -- and there are many things about it that are unfortunate -- but the portrayal of the President in the book is so contrary to reality, to the experience of those who work with him, to my own experience having spent the last two years with him. You know, on the campaign I had the chance to travel all across the country with the President on Trump Force One. It would be the president, me, Dan Scavino, Hope Hicks, a few other people going from rally to rally to rally to rally.

And I saw a man who was a political genius, somebody who we would be going down, landing in descent, there would be a breaking news development. And in 20 minutes, he would dictate 10 paragraphs of new material to address that event...

TAPPER: So...

MILLER: ...and then deliver flawlessly in front of an audience of 10,000 people.

TAPPER: So you were at the campaign during that Trump Tower meeting, I believe, right in the summer of 2016. Just answer the question because you were there and Steve Bannon was not. Did any of those people from that meeting meet with President Trump as -- as Bannon says the chance that he didn't, so Don Jr. didn't walk these jumos up to his father's office on the 26th floor? Is your opinion just settle that for us? Did -- did President Trump meet with any of the people?

MILLER: I have no knowledge of anything to do with that meeting.

TAPPER: OK.

MILLER: But what I can tell you unequivocally is that the allegations and insinuations in this book which are -- which are a pure work of fiction are nothing but a pile of trash through and through.

TAPPER: Well...

MILLER: And well just to finish it because, you know, your network has been going 24/7 with all the salacious coverage, and I know that it brings a lot of you guys a lot of joy to trying to stick the knife in. But the reality is is that page after page after page of the book is pure false. I see sections of the book where events I participated in are described, and I have firsthand knowledge that as they're described they're completely and totally fraudulent.

TAPPER: Nobody is going to say (inaudible)...

MILLER: And it's a (inaudible) fiction.

TAPPER: ...nobody is going to get a sticking knife than anybody.

MILLER: Right, but it's part of (inaudible).

TAPPER: There are a lot of people in the White House quoted in the book. I don't know why...

MILLER: It's -- well, the quote that you're referring to is a quote from Steve Bannon.

TAPPER: Right, who was the President's senior analyst.

MILLER: Right, too. And I think that the -- that the president's statement on Steve settles once and for all if you've got all that. But let's also take...

TAPPER: No, let's talk about that because -- let's talk about that.

MILLER: ...but let's...

(Crosstalk)

TAPPER: The president...

MILLER: Again though to your comment about, oh, he's also the president's chief strategist. So any other tragedies of this grotesque work of fiction is it's betrayal of the president. The reality is is the president is a political genius who won against a field of 17 incredibly talented people, who took down the Bush dynasty, who took down the Clinton dynasty...

TAPPER: Yeah.

MILLER: ...who took down the entire media complex with its 90 percent negative coverage, took down billions of dollars in special interest donations, and he did it all to the people and through his strategy and his vision...

TAPPER: So let's talk about this...

MILLER: ...and his insight and his experience.

TAPPER: Let's talk about the President is now calling Bannon, quote, "Sloppy Steve," and he released a scathing statement this week saying in part, quote, "Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency. When he was fired he not only lost his job, he lost his mind."

You worked hand in glove with Bannon at the White House and on the campaign. Is the President really arguing that Steve Bannon had nothing to do with him or his presidency because that's... MILLER: I -- I can only tell you -- I can only tell you my

experience, which is that I joined the campaign in January of '16, but before the first ballot was casted in Iowa caucus...

TAPPER: Right, Bannon -- Bannon helped you get that job. No?

MILLER: Corey Lewandowski is the one who offered me the job in the Trump campaign. But just to finish...

TAPPER: Bannon wasn't trying -- Bannon wasn't helping you...

MILLER: Just...

TAPPER: ...Bannon didn't help you get that job on the campaign.

MILLER: I think the person who probably helped me most get the job on the campaign was probably Corey. But the most important thing because I've been working with Corey before I joined to try and help out with the campaign, but the most important thing to say about this is that the president's first speech that he gave -- unfiltered, unscripted -- that was Donald Trump.

TAPPER: Right.

MILLER: That same Donald Trump, who for 30 years had talked about how America is getting ripped off on trade, on military deals and everything else, is the same Donald Trump who tapped into the pulse of millions and millions of Americans...

TAPPER: Right, but no...

MILLER: And -- and so...

TAPPER: ...there's no presidency that has won (inaudible) ...

MILLER: It's something -- someone a phenomenon that was happening that you didn't see, a phenomenon that was happening that the rest of the political class didn't see. All of these so-called political geniuses in Washington whether it be at the big lobbying firms or many of the well-known folks in the Congress...

TAPPER: The only person who's called himself a genius in the last week is the President but...

MILLER: It happens to be a true statement.

TAPPER: OK.

MILLER: He's a self-made billionaire who revolutionized reality TV...

TAPPER: And I'm sure...

MILLER: ...and has changed the course of politics.

TAPPER: ...he's watching and he's happy that you said that. But...

MILLER: You know, you can be...

TAPPER: ...my question...

MILLER: No, no, you can be condescending and...

TAPPER: I'm not being condescending, I'm trying to get to the point that Steve Bannon...

MILLER: You can be -- you can be -- no, it's a snot (ph) remark. Yeah, sure, he's watching, he's happy.

Let me tell you something.

TAPPER: Why is that snot?

MILLER: Your network -- you can -- look, you can be as condescending as you want as a part of your M.O. But listen, you can have 24/7...

TAPPER: I have no idea why you're attacking me.

MILLER: You can have -- well, I'll explain to you. I'll tell you why I'm attacking you.

(Crosstalk)

TAPPER: My point is Steve Bannon -- Steve Bannon...

MILLER: You can have -- Jake, you can have a 24/7

TAPPER: (Inaudible) the president's travel ban, but he helped -- he helped pull out...

MILLER: But I'm -- yeah, I'm so glad you brought that up because that's one of the (inaudible) news item in the book.

TAPPER: Steven -- Steven...

MILLER: I would happen to know better than you would, Jake, about how the travel ban was written.

TAPPER: Let me...

MILLER: Steve Bannon didn't push the travel ban.

TAPPER: If you would let me...

MILLER: Steve Bannon (inaudible).

TAPPER: ...if you would let me -- if you let me ask this question.

MILLER: So, no, because you have...

TAPPER: (Inaudible).

MILLER: ...you got 24 hours of negative anti-Trump hysterical coverage on this network. TAPPER: OK.

MILLER: ...that led in recent weeks and some spectacular embarrassing false report...

TAPPER: I think -- I think that (inaudible) can ascertain who's being hysterical.

MILLER: No, the viewers are entitled to have three months of the truth. Why don't you just give me three minutes to tell you the truth about Donald Trump that I know and then all of our campaign staff know...

TAPPER: Because it's my show and I don't want to do that. So, here's my -- here's my question.

MILLER: (Inaudible). This isn't -- this isn't a courtroom and I have the right to speak.

TAPPER: Just settle down, settle down, calm down.

MILLER: Jake...

TAPPER: I have a question for you about issues. Steve Bannon, who the president says had nothing to do with his presidency, he was part of the President's travel ban. He was part of pulling out of the Paris Climate deal. He was part of withdrawing from the TPP. He's part of border security. He's part of being tough on immigration.

MILLER: You want to go through the list?

TAPPER: He's part of -- no, I don't want to go through, but my point is is it really the position...

MILLER: OK.

TAPPER: ...of the Trump White House that Steve Bannon had nothing to do with the presidency or can you acknowledge the reality that he was a key player.

MILLER: I think that what the point is is that his role has been greatly exaggerated whereas the president hasn't gotten to do that he deserves for the movement that he put together to tap into the kinds of people whose life concerns don't get a lot of attention on CNN. Not a lot of hours of coverage on this TV talking about the working class construction workers who lost their jobs to foreign labor. There's not a lot of coverage on this TV about the people getting slaughtered in sanctuary cities. You don't do a lot of human interest stories about immigrant communities under siege from MS-13.

He tapped into a reality that has happen in this country is not covered on this network. And I know you think I'm interrupting you, but I think the American people deserve to have two or three 3 minutes of the truth.

TAPPER: And we've let you -- we've let you talk so... MILLER: No, no, no, here's the truth. I travel with Donald Trump all

across the country and the world. I would -- I would be with the president on a campaign plane with a rally in 20 minutes and he would be able to come up...

TAPPER: You've already made a point, Steven.

MILLER: ...he would be able to come up with material in a blink of an eye...

TAPPER: Yeah, you've already made -- you've already said that. We let you say that the top -- at the top. According to The "New York Times" Special Counsel Robert Mueller has, in his possession, an early draft of a letter that you helped write in May 2017 detailing reasons to fire FBI Director James Comey.

According to the newspaper, the first line of the letter mentions the Russian investigation. Did you write a letter outlining reasons the fire Comey and list the Russian investigation? Is that true?

MILLER: Here's the problem with what you're saying. The final draft of the letter, the one that was made...

TAPPER: I'm not talking about that one, I'm talking about the one that Comey has that mentions Russia.

MILLER: If you want to have an answer to your question and not to get hysterical then only answer it. The final draft of the letter has the same line about the fact that there is a Trump-Russia investigation that this has nothing to do with.

TAPPER: So it just moved from the top to the bottom?

MILLER: No, is it -- no, look at the letter, it's the beginning. The investigation is referenced in the beginning of the final letter that was released to point out about the fact that notwithstanding having been informed that there's no investigation that the -- that the move that is happening is completely unrelated to that. So it was a -- it was a disclaimer that appeared in the -- in the final version of the letter that was made public.

TAPPER: I want to ask you because you obviously are very offended by the notion that this book "Fire and Fury" paints a picture of President Trump, trump is not mentally up to the job.

On Saturday, President Trump put out a series of tweets trying to defend himself on this issue of fitness. And he said, quote, "Actually throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being like really smart. Crooked Hillary Clinton also played his cards very hard and, as everyone knows, went down in flames. I went from a very successful businessman to top TV star to president of United States on my first try. I think that would qualify as not smart but genius and a very stable genius at that."

Do you think tweets like that help or hurt the cause that the president is stable enough for the job? MILLER: No, I think they help it, but I think in the toxic

environment that you've created here in CNN and cable news, which is a real crisis of legitimacy for your network. And we saw, of course, with the extremely fake news you reported about the Don Jr. and WikiLeaks story, that was a huge embarrassment for your network...

TAPPER: Steven...

MILLER: ...just like the huge embarrassment you had when you got the Comey testimony wrong.

TAPPER: Steven, I'm trying to get to the...

(Crosstalk)

TAPPER: ...which a lot of people...

MILLER: Well, I'm getting to the issue of your (inaudible). But the president's -- the president's tweets absolutely reaffirm the plain spoken truth -- a self-made billionaire revolutionize reality TV and tapped into something magical that's happening in the heart of this country.

The people that you don't...

TAPPER: (inaudible) has approval rating in the 30's...

MILLER: ...the people -- the people...

TAPPER: ...I don't know what maps are you talking about.

MILLER: ...the people that you don't connect with and understand, the people whose manufacturing jobs have left, who have been besieged by high crime communities and who have been affected by a policy of uncontrolled immigration, those voices, those experiences don't get covered on this network. That's why -- and to prove the point, I was -- I was booked to talk about the very issues I'm just describing and you're not even asking about them because they're not interesting facts to you.

TAPPER: That's not right. I have plenty of questions and they're...

(Crosstalk)

TAPPER: ...sounded to filibuster by talking about your flights with the president.

MILLER: No, I'm not (inaudible)...

TAPPER: Hold on a few question because (inaudible)...

MILLER: (Inaudible) -- no, don't be condescending. Jake, Jake...

TAPPER: Steven...

MILLER: Jake... (Crosstalk)

TAPPER: ...and the White House...

MILLER: No, the reason why I want to talk about...

TAPPER: ...the president and the White...

MILLER: Jake, the reason why I want to talk about the president's experiences, what I've seen with him traveling with dozens of foreign leaders with his incredible work...

TAPPER: OK, you're not answering the questions, I understand...

MILLER: ...(inaudible) you have 24 hours a day of anti-Trump material...

TAPPER: Steven, you're being...

MILLER: ...you're not going to give three minutes to the American people...

TAPPER: I get it.

MILLER: ...(inaudible) Donald Trump.

TAPPER: There's one viewer that you care about right now and you're being obsequious (inaudible) ...

MILLER: No, but you're being...

TAPPER: ...in order to please him, OK? And I...

MILLER: No, you know who I care about?

TAPPER: ...have wasted -- I think I've wasted enough of my (inaudible) time.

MILLER: You know who I -- you know who I care about?

TAPPER: Thank you, Steven. As Republican (inaudible)...

MILLER: And, Jake, you know who I care about?

TAPPER: ...to resign in a major reversal Democrats...

(VIDEO ENDS)

WHITFIELD: And that's how that interview ended. Lots to discuss there and we will in a moment. But first we've got this breaking news that we're following for you right now.

At JFK International Airport where CNN is learning that a portion of the airport is being evacuated because of a water main break. You see some of the images extraordinary right there. Polo Sandoval joining us now from that airport. Polo, talk to me about the scene here. Extraordinary images there, a

lot of standing water. And this after many, many days of flight delays and cancellations, people have been, you know, hunkering down at the airport because they haven't been able to get out because of bad weather. And now you've got this?

SANDOVAL: This is certainly not going to help the situation, Fred. While we wait to hear from officials about this apparent water main break, let me fill you in on what we have heard, what we've seen. You can see -- even see some of the video here the capturing of that situation in Terminal 4. Just around 1:30 P.M. Eastern Time officials scrambling to the Terminal 4 Arrivals area asking people evacuate. And we also saw water cascading down an interior wall there in the Arrival section.

A colleague was actually in the ladies room when gentlemen started to run inside yelling the names out of their female loved ones trying to get them out of there because the water did begin to spread quite quickly here. There was certainly a sense of urgency.

I even heard one official rushed to close the door saying that if they don't, then they will have an ice rink, in his own words, there in the Arrivals there because it is quite cold, about 15 degrees here in Queens but feels much colder. Officials here have evacuated the area. You might be able to tell firefighters also here on scene as they try to get to the bottom of what causes apparent pairing water main.

But just offer some context here, this is happening as officials at JFK International Airport tried to recover still from Thursday storm. They have seen already many, many flights cancelled, many passengers that have ended up stranded on airplanes because of these cascading effects, these residual effects from the delays on Thursday that have caused, according to the last update from JFK officials, frozen equipment breakdowns, issues with baggage handling, staff shortages and also heavier than normal passenger loads. This is all really creating what they described as cascading series of issues for airlines that are still trying to recover, still -- amid this cold as well. So again, this is the latest situation that is certainly not helping the recovery process here after Thursday storms. There's apparent water leak.

We're going to keep monitoring the situation as as we find out really what will be the full effect of this latest incident. We'll let you know, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Or a bad situation made even worse now. All right. Thank you so much, Polo Sandoval, for...

SANDOVAL: Yeah.

WHITFIELD: ...bringing that to us.

All right. Back to our other big story, the White House coming out strong again today punching back at the author of that new tell-all book about the Trump administration, also talk about my panel joins us in a moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Hi, welcome back. Let's continue with our coverage of that explosive interview from top Presidential Adviser Stephen Miller with our Jake Tapper, Miller appearing on CNN's State of the Union earlier today and giving a very fiery defense of the president and blasting former Trump adviser chief strategist Steve Bannon. Here is a quick snippet of that contentious interview.

(VIDEO BEGINS)

MILLER: With respect to the Trump Tower meeting that he's talking about, he wasn't even there were and this went down, so he's not really a remotely credible source on any of it. It reads like an angry, vindictive person spouting off to a highly discredible author. The book is best understood as a work of very poorly written fiction.

(VIDEO ENDS)

WHITFIELD: All right. Let's discuss this now with my panel with me now, CNN political commentator and a Republican strategist Alice Stewart, CNN political commentator Hilary Rosen and CNN political commentator and Princeton University historian and professor, Julian Zelizer. Good to see you all.

(UNKNOWN): Hi, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Alice, let me begin with you. So in that interview, Miller appear to be making the case that the president is a political genius. He discredited the author of the book "Fire and Fury," and he attacks the former chief strategist Steve Bannon. And now you have Steve Bannon himself releasing a statement of clarification, if you will, saying that he is quoted as saying what he's saying about Don Jr. and how he was quoted in the book Bannon says is inaccurate.

So, Alice, what does all of this say about the White House, Bannon all trying to secure support or getting the last word?

STEWART: Well, this is another in a long line of of interviews that will be done by the White House really trying to discredit the book. And I think seeing any clip of that interview with Jake Tapper we see why Steven Miller is a senior policy adviser, not the press secretary. He clearly didn't want to answer questions about this book, but he did make several points and this is what we're going to hear, you know, first until we stop asking about "Fire and Fury."

He wanted to make the point again that CNN is fake news. It has a crisis in credibility that Steve Bannon's comments were grotesque, that the book's author that is a garbage, author of a garbage book, and to say in this interview that Jake Tapper is condescending and has involved in hysterical coverage.

But the main point he wanted to get out is that Donald Trump is a genius. Lance for a grotesque that the book's author is a garbage offer of a

garbage book and just say in this interview that Jake tapper is condescending and has involved in hysterical coverage but the main point he wanted to get out is that Donald Trump is a genius and he repeated that phrase over and over. And clearly, playing his audience...

(Crosstalk)

STEWART: ...Trump, right. And the Trump supported this. He quickly tweeted after this interview that Steven Miller destroyed Jake Tapper. Of course, that remains to be seen, right.

WHITFIELD: So, Julie, and the White House, you know, does -- I mean this White House has already shown. They like to dictate, you know, the narrative, drive the message at all costs including when it doesn't answer the questions as we saw exhibited in that, you know, Miller interview. So is this -- that technique that we just saw, is this controlling the message or is this sending an alarming one?

ZELIZER: Well, you're right, whenever there is a problem that the administration faces, they try to shape the message and push it in a particular direction and they usually try to discredit the messenger of the opposition. And I think we're seeing both in that interview today and in the tweets from the president. And I am sure we will see more, but it comes from a position of alarm or a position of concern. That's when the administration is most fierce I think when they're actually worried that there is something at stake.

WHITFIELD: So, Hilary, the president -- and, you know, as Alice just mentioned, you know, he did express via Twitter that he's happy with the way, you know, Steven Miller handled himself. So, you know, this is just another chapter perhaps in -- in that playbook of, you know, disparaging democracy by undercutting the free press, you know, but at the same time it sounds a rather...

ROSEN: Yeah.

WHITFIELD: ....extraordinary message that the president does use the media when he can to his advantage nearly simultaneous to trying to tear down journalism.

ROSEN: Look, this is not the first White House or the first president that has, you know, sent an all hands on deck to go out and try and discredit a book. We saw that in the Obama administration frankly, so I think the the issue though is that the White House has successfully kind of rally they're based around this being an unfair attack on the president based on this notion of whether or not the president is smart.

I think what he has done actually is somewhat genius. They have -- they've turned this into a -- into a debate about whether the president is fit for office. And really what I thought the most damaging part of the book was not whether he was fit for office, we certainly had presidents who were smarter and dumber than Donald Trump. What -- what the most damaging part of the -- the book to me is that

his constant need for ego gratification that as motivation and is day- to-day work and his staff stated their work is all about massaging the ego of Donald Trump, not about what is good on a day to day basis for the country and that's why bad decisions get made. That's why I tweak go off they handle that's why people don't feel like they can be -- they can trust him.

So I think this whole -- this is a false narrative to be arguing over whether or not the president is fit for office. The issue is really whether he's a, you know, good enough person to run the country and that's a -- that's a different issue.

WHITFIELD: And -- and, Julian, you know Steven Miller also taking issue, you know, with the Russia investigation, the sequence of events and "New York Times" having its own, you know, reporting today about the special counsel having a draft of a letter that Miller helped write back in May of 2017. This is Miller today.

(VIDEO BEGINS)

MILLER: The final draft of the letter has the same line about the fact that there is a Trump-Russia investigation that this has nothing to do with.

TRUMP: I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, "You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story."

(VIDEO ENDS)

WHITFIELD: So -- so, Julian, you know, Hilary underscored it. There has been countless examples of a contentious relationship between the press and the White House. What is different hereto is that, you know, reappearance of these alternative facts how, you know, the White House interprets things differently and will continue to convey things to the American public, but is this advantageous to the White House?

ZELIZER: Sure, I mean there's two differences with Richard Nixon who also attacked the press. One is I do think President Trump is much more willing to play with fact and fiction and to say things and put things out there that are not true, and -- and he does it with a certain amount of abandon that we haven't seen in all presidents. And second, there is a conservative media apparatus from television to the web, which supports a lot of what the president and the administration is saying. And -- and both of those are really political assets as they push back against the investigation and other kinds of problems that they face.

WHITFIELD: And then, Alice, you know, this spat now between Bannon and the White House, if that issue is, you know, who's fighting over the base, is there a presumption that the White House makes that because this president is in the White House, he wins the base when the long time argument has been Bannon has represented the base for a very long time. STEWART: Sure, there's always been the argument of who actually

started tearing this mantle in this election and who actually continues to hold it. And look, I don't think we would have seen Steve Bannon come out and walk back his comments and say that he regrets delaying -- responding to some of the falses in this book if he didn't feel as though he may be losing the mantle on the base.

And I do think that he lost a lot of support this week deservedly so. I think a lot of these comments were completely unnecessary. And -- and I just think we're insulting to the president and the entire administration. I think he realized if he doesn't try to -- to walk this back or make amends that he will become irrelevant. But because for what we saw throughout conservative media and members of those in the base and Republican Party, they were going to stand behind President Trump and Steve Bannon was becoming more and more man on an island of his own.

And I think what him walking this back is his way to try and wave the white flag and get back in the President's good graces and certainly with the base because he is still intending to make some -- some real impact in midterm elections.

WHITFIELD: So, Hilary...

ROSEN: But something -- something is (inaudible).

WHITFIELD: ...before this book though, wasn't the argument that Bannon perhaps was irrelevant after the loss of a Roy Moore that perhaps he wasn't as influential after all by the loss hat Alabama Senate race.

ROSEN: Well, look after the Alabama race, I think there was a -- there were a lot of people wondering about Steve Bannon's, you know, electoral judgment that -- that's different than whether or not he ends up speaking from a policy perspective with the same emotion that -- that Donald Trump's base does.

WHITFIELD: But something else I think happened this week which people are not thinking about.

ROSEN: Yeah. There's a lot of talk about the base -- Donald Trump's base and him making sure that it was he owned it as opposed to Steve Bannon. But Bannon's comments really reinforced for three-quarters of America who are not in Donald Trump's base, the inner workings of the White House in a really negative way so that if you had this guy who, in essence, saw himself as a Trump ally being such a truth teller, there is no way that those people were going to come back to Donald Trump and say, "Oh, you know what, maybe we should be giving him the benefit of the doubt." And that is a really important point.

That just is another way to cement the fact that his base is not going to grow any bigger than it is and, in fact, that they make no attempt to have his base grow any bigger than it is, which going into a midterm election and to reelect as a president you cannot survive.

WHITFIELD: So, Julian, which Bannon do the electorate, you know, believe the one that's quoted in the book or the one who says now he has to, you know, wants to correct some statements?

ZELIZER: I think that base and the rest of the electorate will divide. I don't think they're clearly going to go to 1 side or another, but I think what happened with these comments, what happened with this book, it put some doubts out there, it put some more of an inside account of the chaos that seems to be happening in the Oval Office. And I think that's exactly spot-on, how does this affect turnout in the midterm elections, how does it affect the enthusiasm of non-base Republicans who are really at the heart of President Trump's coalition? And does this somehow become part of a mix to lead to a democratic Congress or not? Does that Republican loyalty remain firm regardless of what's in this book or what Steven Bannon might have said?

WHITFIELD: Right, here's the book, "Fire and Fury." Let's see how influential potentially it's turning out to be in 2018. Alice Stewart, Hilary Rosen, Julian Zelizer, thank you so much.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

STEWART: Thanks, Fred.

ROSEN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Coming up, new revelations, members of the Trump administration pressured. Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russian investigation, so is this a case of obstruction of justice? These questions coming up amid growing calls for Sessions to step down as attorney general.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Hi, welcome back. New questions and concerns over a report that suggests that there is a growing body of evidence in the Russia investigation pointing to potential obstruction of justice. The report in The "New York Times" says, President Trump ordered a White House lawyer back in March to pressure Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from overseeing the Russia investigation.

The Times also reports Special Counsel Robert Mueller is examining the move as a possible obstruction of justice. The Ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee says, "The president's intent is key here."

(VIDEO BEGINS)

SESSIONS: It is certainly appropriate and I think even necessary that we investigate this. And I do think it's evidence that there is on the intent of the president in the urging White House counsel to urge Jeff Sessions essentially to ignore the advice of the ethics lawyers at the Justice Department. It certainly appears consistent with what the president has said about his firing of James Comey, and that is he had Russia on his mind.

He wanted loyalty from James Comey. He wanted loyalty from Jeff Sessions. And the way the President interprets loyalty is not loyalty to country, not loyalty to justice, but rather loyalty to him and having his back when it concerns the Russian investigation. So I think this could very well be evidence that goes to the president's intent. And, of course, one of the elements of obstruction is having a corrupt intent that accompanies these acts.

(VIDEO ENDS)

WHITFIELD: All right. Joining me right now to discuss all of this CNN contributor and former White House Ethics czar Norm Eisen and CNN legal analyst and former prosecutor Paul Callan. Good to see both of you. Happy New Year.

(UNKNOWN): Happy New Year.

(UNKNOWN): Happy New Year.

WHITFIELD: So, Paul, let me begin with you. You know, if it is shown that President Trump tried to lobby Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia probe, is that a clear case of obstruction?

CALLAN: It could be, but it would not be what I would call a clear case. It might be one point in a case. Remember, this would be proof that by saying to Sessions, "I want you to stay on this investigation so you can quash it and put it to death, that's really evidence of criminal intent on the part of the president if the president felt the investigation was coming after him."

On the other hand, if the president felt there was never any merit to the investigation, it's a waste of the resources of the Justice Department, then that's a legitimate administrative decision by the president and maybe would not support an obstruction charge, so I think you need something more than that, but this could be one of many points supporting an obstruction charge.

And so, Norm, does it add, you know to this mosaic as I'm hearing so many describe that when you have a senior administration official who says I am telling CNN that other White House officials were involved in the effort to persuade Sessions not to recuse himself including former chief of staff Reince Priebus and ex-Press Secretary Sean Spicer even displaced who has already apparently denied it. So does this help build a case if there were many within the White House top level who are trying to get him to not recuse?

EISEN: Fredricka, thanks for having me back. It does help build the case. We need to be cautious. Ultimately, the decision of Bob Mueller is going to be -- I think he's going to have to look into the president's eyes and hear from him what was your intent, Mr. President, corrupt or legitimate? But yes, this week moved forward with the president apparently so concerned about his own liability that he complained according to the Times that Eric holder and RFK have protected their president, presidency cried out in the Oval Office, "Where is my Roy Cohn...

WHITFIELD: Right. EISEN: ...the notoriously corrupt fixer who Trump had used as his own

lawyer. The Attorney General of the United States is not supposed to be the a criminal defense lawyer of our the president. And -- and that and the smear campaign against Comey, yes, this was another big week forward, but we're still not there yet. I'm proving a conclusive obstruction case.

WHITFIELD: So the president himself has actually said he'd be willing to talk with, you know, Bob Mueller. Do you see, Norm, if that would actually happen? And if so, what would the conditions be that Bob Mueller would actually have a face-to-face conversation as you said looking him in the eye, the President of the United States?

EISEN: Well, well it's happened before in these investigations with Clinton, with Bush. Typically out of respect for the dignity of the office, Fredricka, Mueller will go to the White House. There'll be a room. One of the side rooms, and he'll sit there with us, small crew. The president's lawyer will be with him, and he'll ask those questions of the president.

There is no way that Mueller can resolve this case, in my opinion, without hearing from the president himself. So that -- that likely is going to happen, it's just a question of when.

And then there's the question of no matter what the president says, 2,000 lives this year, Fredricka, almost according to The "Washington Post". (Inaudible) has just 16 percent of what he says is true or mostly true. Can Mueller believe anything the president says? That's the other big question (inaudible).

WHITFIELD: The other -- the difference that we would be under oath so, right, because like the deposition you're talking about, yeah.

EISEN: It might be a deposition, but it might not. It might be just an informal questioning that takes place at the Oval Office. And I will tell you that the president's lawyers are not going to want to let this happen. Trump is such a loose cannon. A lawyer would be terrified as to what he might say if he loses his temper in a conversation with Mueller.

The other thing I just want to add, you know, as people start to focus on the obstruction because the Russia investigation, you know, seems to remain vague at least in terms of what we know as to whether criminality can be proven. It's very rare to think or see a president being indicted for an obstruction case when the thing that he's obstructing -- the Russia investigation -- didn't pan out to prove to be criminal. And I think one Mueller looks at this, this is a real hard decision for a prosecutor to make. Should I go forward with an obstruction case when I couldn't prove the thing I was investigating in the first place sometimes prosecutors go forward with the obstruction case, sometimes they don't. And where the president is involved, it becomes a very difficult decision for a prosecutor -- any prosecutor.

WHITFIELD: And, of course, the Mueller team is looking for concrete evidence, they're looking for concrete testimony as well, but then want to be difficult for them to overlook the content of this book, "Fire and Fury" especially when you have the author today on meet the press. Michael Wolff said that he detected from a number of people who are working around the president that they were concerned about the 25th Amendment, he said. And this is exactly what he said.

(VIDEO BEGINS)

WOLFF: I'd probably -- if I left out anything it's probably stuff that was even more damage.

MUELLER: It's that -- it's not bad.

WOLFF: I mean, it's -- it's an extraordinary moment in time. And the last -- the last several days focused on -- on my book I think are -- are -- are proof of this. This is what happens here, what's going on here. This is, you know, I -- I think not an exaggeration and not unreasonable, and it's not unreasonable to say this is 25th amendment kind of stuff.

MUELLER: This is -- I mean, (inaudible) say that in the West Wing to you?

WOLFF: All the time.

MUELLER: Twenty-fifth amendment. They would bring up the 25th Amendment?

WOLFF: Yes, actually they -- they would say, "We're not in there for either -- sort of in the mid period. We're not at a 25th Amendment level yet or they would...

MUELLER: It's alarming.

WOLFF: This is alarming in every way. And then this -- this went on, OK, this is a little 25th Amendment. So 25th amendment is a concept that is alive every day in the White House.

(VIDEO ENDS)

WHITFIELD: So, Norm, 25th Amendment, meaning the worry or the concern the Vice President will be stepping in because, for whatever reason, the president of the United States would not be able to carry out his term.

EISEN: Yes, the 25th Amendment was passed in the wake of concerns about the declining health of presidents in office. There was the issue at the end of FDR's term. Wilson had a incapacitating stroke. And the question is, in this case, not one of physical fitness but of mental suitability, capability, capacity to exercise the powers of the office.

And I do think there is a legitimate question. We need to take it seriously we can't rush to conclusions, but some of these tweets in particular where we get a real-time insight into what the president of the United States is saying, the bizarre tweets about his nuclear button being larger than... WHITFIELD: His stream of consciousness.

EISEN: ...that North Korean leaders, neither of them even has a nuclear button on their desk, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Oh, you had a code.

EISEN: And then the strange...

WHITFIELD: (Inaudible).

EISEN: ...you know, I'm a stable genius. Those were like the ravings of a, you know, the mad man, so there are reasons for concern. We need to take it one step at a time, but I -- I have to say it is -- there are troubling questions about the fitness of the president.

WHITFIELD: Yeah, well, button -- button, bigger buttons, smaller button that gets the attention. You just can't, you know, say the bigger code. Maybe that's what...

(LAUGHTER)

All right. Paul Callan, Norm Eisen, thanks so much, gentlemen. Appreciate it.

(UNKNOWN): Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead, more on our breaking news, very serious stuff here. Look at all that water at the water main break reportedly leading to massive flooding at JFK Airport in New York. This is thousands of people remained stranded after so many cancelled flights and staffing shortages because of such frigid conditions. We'll take you there live next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And then, Alice, you know, the spat now between Bannon and the White House, the issue is, you know, who is fighting over the base. Is there a presumption that the White House makes that because this president is in the White House, he wins the base? When the long-time argument has been Bannon has represented the base for a very long time?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure. There is always been the argument of who actually started carrying this mantle in this election and who actually continues to hold it. Look, I don't think we would have seen Steve Bannon come out and walk back his comments and say that he regrets delaying -- responding to some of the falses in this book if he didn't feel as though he may be losing the mantle on the base.

I do think that he lost a lot of support this week, deservedly so. I think a lot of the comments were unnecessary and I just think were insulting to the president and the entire administration.

I think he realized if he doesn't try to walk this back or make amends that he will become irrelevant because what we saw throughout conservative media and those in the base and the Republican Party, they were going to stand behind President Trump and Steve Bannon was becoming more and more a man on an island of his own.

I think him walking this back is his way to try and wave the white flag and get back in the president's good graces and certainly, with the base because he is still intending to make some real impact in midterm elections.

WHITFIELD: So, Hilary, before this book though, wasn't the argument that Bannon perhaps was irrelevant after the loss of Roy Moore that perhaps he was not as influential after all by the loss of that Alabama Senate race.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, after the Alabama race, there were a lot of people wondering about Steve Bannon's, you know, electoral judgment and that's different than whether or not he ends up speaking from a policy perspective with the same emotion that Donald Trump's base did.

But something else I think happened this week which people are not thinking about, when there is a lot of talk about the base, Donald Trump's base, and him making sure that it was he owned it as opposed to Steve Bannon. Bannon's commends really reinforced for three quarters of America who are not in Donald Trump's base.

The inner workings of the White House in a really negative way so that if you had this guy who in essence saw himself as a Trump ally being such a truth teller, there is no way that those people were going to come back to Donald Trump and say, you know what, maybe we should be giving him the benefit of the doubt.

And that is a really important point. That just is another way to cement the fact that his base is not going to grow any bigger than it is and in fact that they make no attempt to have his base grow any bigger that it is, which going into a midterm election and reelect as a president, you cannot survive.

WHITFIELD: So Julian, which Bannon do the electorate believe, the one that is quoted in the book or the one who says now he wants to correct some statements?

ZELIZER: I think that base and the rest of the electorate will divide. I don't think they are clearly going to one side or another, but I think what happened with these comments and what happened with this book, it put some doubts out there and put some more of an inside account of the chaos that seems to be happening in the oval office.

And I think that's exactly spot on. How does this affect turnout in the midterm elections? How does it affect the enthusiasm of non-base Republicans, who are really at the heart of President Trump's coalition and does this somehow become part of a mix to lead to a Democratic Congress or not? Does that Republican loyalty remain firm regardless of what's in the book or what Steven Bannon might have said? WHITFIELD: All right. Here's the book, "Fire and Fury," let's see how influential potentially it's turning out to be in 2018. Alice Stewart, Hilary Rosen, Julian Zelizer, thanks so much.

All right. Coming up, new revelations that members of the Trump administration pressured the attorney general, Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. So, is this a case of obstruction of justice? These questions coming up amid growing calls for Sessions to step down as attorney general.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:37:53]

WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. New questions and concerns over a report that suggests that there is a growing body of evidence in the Russia investigation pointing to potential obstruction of justice.

The report in the "New York Times" says President Trump ordered a White House lawyer back in March to pressure Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from overseeing the Russia investigation.

The "Times" also reports Special Counsel Robert Mueller is examining the move as a possible obstruction of justice. The ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee says the president's intent is key here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF (D), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It is certainly appropriate, and I think even necessary that we investigate this, and I do think it's evidence that bears on the intent of the president in urging White House counsel to urge Jeff Sessions essentially to ignore the advice of the ethics lawyers of the Justice Department.

It certainly appears consistent with what the president has said about his firing of James Comey. He had Russia on this is mind. He wanted loyalty from James Comey. He wanted loyalty from Jeff Sessions and the way the president interprets loyalty is not loyalty to country or justice, but rather loyalty to him and having his back when it concerns the Russia investigation.

So, I think this could very well be evidence that goes to the president's intent and of course, one of the elements of obstruction is having a corrupt intent that accompanies these acts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right. Joining me right now to discuss all of this, CNN contributor and former White House ethics czar, Norm Eisen, and CNN legal analyst and former prosecutor, Paul Callan. Good to see both of you. Happy new year.

Paul, let me begin with you. If it is shown that President Trump tried to lobby Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia probe, is that a clear case of obstruction?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It could be, but it would not be what I would call a clear case. It might be one point in a case. Remember, this would be proof that by saying to Sessions, I want you to stay on this investigation, so you can quash it and put it to death, that's evidence really of criminal intent on the part of the president if the president felt the investigation was coming after him.

[14:40:05] On the other hand if the president felt there was never any merit to the investigation. It was a waste of resources of the Justice Department, then that's legitimate administrative decision by the president and maybe would not support an obstruction charge. So, I think you need something more than that, but this could be one of many points supporting an obstruction charge.

WHITFIELD: And so Norm, does it add to this mosaic as I'm hearing so many describe it when you have a senior administration official, who says and telling CNN that other White House officials were involved in the effort to persuade Sessions not to recuse himself including former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and ex-Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who denied it. Does this help build a case if there were many within the White House top level who were trying to get him to not recuse?

NORM EISEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Fredricka, thanks for having me back. It does help build a case. We need to be cautious. Ultimately, the decision of Bob Mueller is going to be -- I think he is going to have to look into the president's eyes and hear from him what was your intent, Mr. President, corrupt or legitimate?

But yes, this week moved forward with the president apparently so concerned about his own liability, that he complained according to the "Times" that Eric Holder and RFK had protected their presidents. He cried out in the oval office where is my Roy Cohn, the notoriously corrupt fixer, who Trump had used as his own lawyer.

The attorney general of the United States is not supposed to be the criminal defense lawyer of the president and that and the smear campaign against Comey, yes, this was another big week forward, but we are still not there yet on proving a conclusive obstruction case.

WHITFIELD: So, the president himself has actually said he would be willing to talk with Bob Mueller. Do you see Norm if that would actually happen and if so, what would the conditions be that Bob Mueller would actually have a face-to-face conversation looking him in the eye, the president of the United States?

EISEN: Well, it happened before in these investigations with Clinton and Bush. Typically, out of respect for the dignity of the office, Fredricka, Mueller will go to the White House and there will be a room. He will sit there with a small crew. The president's lawyer will be with him and he will ask those questions of the president.

There is no way that Mueller can resolve this case in my opinion without hearing from the president himself. So, that likely is going to happen. It's just a question of when. Then there is the question of no matter what the president says, 2,000 lies this year, Fredricka, according to the "Washington Post." "Politifact" says just 16 percent of what he said is true or mostly true. Can Mueller believe anything the president said? That's the other big question.

WHITFIELD: The difference that he would be under oath, though, right. It's like a deposition you're talking about.

CALLAN: It might be a deposition or it might be an informal questioning that takes place at the oval office. I will tell you that the president's lawyers are not going to want to let this happen. Trump is such a loose cannon. A lawyer would be terrified as to what he might say if he loses his temper in a conversation with Mueller.

The other thing I just want to add as people start to focus on the obstruction because the Russia investigation seems to remain vague at least in terms of what we know as to whether criminality can be proven.

It's very rare to see a president being indicted for an obstruction case when the thing that he is obstructing, the Russia investigation, didn't pan out to prove to be criminal. I think when Mueller looks at this, this is a real hard decision for a prosecutor to make.

Should I go forward with an obstruction case when I couldn't prove the thing I was investigating in the first place. Sometimes prosecutors go forward with the obstruction case and sometimes they don't. Where the president is involved, it becomes a very difficult decision for a prosecutor, any prosecutor.

WHITFIELD: Of course, the Mueller team is looking for concrete evidence and testimony as well, but then won't it be difficult for them to overlook the content of this book, "Fire and Fury" especially when you have the author today on "Meet The Press." Michael Wolff said that he detected from a number of people who are working around the president that they were concerned about the 25th Amendment, he said. This is exactly what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHEAL WOLFF, AUTHOR, "FIRE AND FURY": If I left out anything, it's probably stuff that was even more damning. It's that bad. I mean, it's an extraordinary moment in time. The last several days focused on my book I think are proof of this. What happened here? What's going on here?

[14:45:07] This is, you know, I think not an exaggeration and not unreasonable, and it's not unreasonable to say this is 25th Amendment kind of stuff. This is --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) say that in the west wing to you?

WOLFF: All the time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They would bring up the 25th Amendment?

WOLFF: Yes, actually they would say in the mid-period, we are not a 25th Amendment level yet or they would --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's alarming.

WOLFF: This is alarming in every way. This went on and this is a little 25th Amendment. The 25th Amendment is a concept that is alive every day in the White House.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So Norm, 25th Amendment meaning the worry or concern the vice president would be stepping in because for whatever reason the president of the United States would not be able to carry out his term?

EISEN: Yes. The 25th Amendment was passed in the wake of concerns about the declining health of presidents in office. There was an issue at the end of FDR's term. Wilson had an incapacitating stroke. The question is in this case not one of physical fitness, but of mental suitability, capability, capacity to exercise the powers of the office.

And I do think there is a legitimate question we need to take it seriously. We can't rush to conclusions, but some of these tweets in particular where we get a realtime insight into what the president of the United States is saying. The bizarre tweets about his nuclear button being larger than the North Korean leaders.

Neither of them even has a nuclear button on their desk, Fredricka, and then strange -- I'm a stable genius, those were like the ravings of, you know, a mad man. So, there are reasons for concern. We need to take it one step at a time, but I have to say there are troubling questions about the fitness of the president.

WHITFIELD: Bigger button, smaller button, that gets the attention. You just can't, you know, say the bigger code. All right. Paul Callan, Norm Eisen, thanks so much, Gentlemen. Appreciate it.

All right. Still ahead, more on the breaking news, very serious stuff. Look at all that water. A water main break leading to massive flooding at JFK Airport in New York. Thousands of people remain stranded after so many canceled flights and staffing shortages because of such frigid conditions. We will take there live, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:50:51]

WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. We are continuing to follow breaking news out of JFK International Airport in New York. CNN is learning that a portion of the airport is being evacuated because of this water main break.

Polo Sandoval is joining us now from the airport. So, Polo, what have you learned?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, some of that yellow tape is going to greet some of the passengers whose travel plans may take them to Terminal 4 here at JFK International Airport. You and our viewers are very well aware of how important this airport is for people not just coming into the country, but also leaving the country and this is also the latest incident.

About an hour ago or so, airport officials here scrambling through the terminal asking people to evacuate as water was literally cascading down one of the interior walls of the airport and quickly flooding portions of the airport there.

The scene with the water flooding an area where passenger's luggage was being kept. We have seen a cascading series of incidents as the JFK airport had already described it in which they have been struggling to try to really recover from the situation that we saw on Thursday.

This winter storm having a devastating impact on the travel system here. Frozen equipment breakdowns, staff shortages and also some issues with the passenger loads as well. So, again, Fred, this is the latest incident that airport officials have had to deal with.

Right now, they still don't know what the source of this water is, but I can tell you at least a portion of the wing of Terminal 4 has been evacuated temporarily closed as they try to clean up this mess.

WHITFIELD: Mess indeed. All right. Thank you so much, Polo Sandoval there at JFK Airport, New York. And we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:56:16]

WHITFIELD: It is one of the president's unique talents, if you want to call it that, coming up with biting nicknames for his opponents, usually just two-word monikers, but they cut deep. That's this week's "State of the Cartoonian" by Jake Tapper.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Almost like magic, late on Thursday President Trump came up with a new nasty nickname for his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon.

The nickname comes in the midst of a rather consequential fight about a book that paints a picture of the president as disconnected and not up to the job. There is one job that the president is clearly up to, coining devastating nicknames.

Cruel and juvenile and occasionally racist.

So how does President Trump come up with that perfect nickname? Does he workshop them? Sardonnic Steve? Silly Steve? Hobo Steve? Might anger the hobo community.

But Bannon is capable of coming up with biting nicknames as well. According to "Politico," he privately refers to President Trump's son- in-law, Jared Kushner as "Freddo," the Craven son in "The Godfather."

Though we should point out that "Politico" originally misreported this saying that Bannon called Kushner, "Fruto," the character from "Lord of the Rings." Will Bannon return fire and come up with a nickname for his former boss? One wonders where this epic battle may end up like an old west standoff with smart phones instead of guns.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Clever. All right. We have so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)